By Matt Skoufalos
With several family members in the medical field, including her mother (a nurse) and father (a CRNA), Pianti thought she’d follow suit. After completing some prerequisite courses at Camden County College in New Jersey, Pianti transferred across the Delaware River, to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From there, she was hired at Hahnemann University Hospital, and was thrust right into a role in vascular surgery.
“In nursing school, you don’t really learn about the operating room,” Pianti said. “Maybe you sort of touch on it, and if you’re lucky in your clinicals, you maybe get one day of shadowing. When it came to the operating room, there was really no background for me; it was all new.”
Pianti described her experience as “sink or swim.” She was partnered with a seasoned colleague who she described as knowledgeable but very laissez-faire. Pianti said she felt free to make mistakes, but also a great deal of stress in the on-the-job learning environment. When a group of her fellow new hires gathered to discuss their respective experiences within the hospital, Pianti said she found their experiences didn’t compare with hers.
“I remember wanting to cry,” she said. “[I felt like] I don’t know what I’m doing; there’s no one to teach me anything.”
“With different personalities, you learn different things,” Pianti said. “Some people like to teach, some people don’t, and you get the perspective of how to do it on your own.”
Finally, Pianti mustered the nerve to approach her manager to discuss her circumstances, and he responded by pairing her with a few different mentors. The changes were significant.
“They teach you to advocate for yourself in nursing school, but in real time, it’s a lot more difficult to know if your feelings are legitimate or if you’re scared,” she said. “At the time I didn’t realize it, but a really good manager who will listen to their staff is a valuable thing to have. If he’d just written me off, I probably wouldn’t have had such a good training experience after speaking up for myself.”
The positive reinforcement of that experience taught Pianti a lot, and as a result, she ended up mentoring a few colleagues later in her time at Hahnemann. Her takeaway? Investment in developing strong coworkers produces a more cohesive workplace.
“If you don’t train the people you work with well, you’re selling yourself short, and you’re selling them short,” Pianti said. “It really is a team effort to make sure that everybody is comfortable and knowledgeable in their position.”
After Pianti and her husband had a second child, she transitioned to the Vincera Institute, a sports medicine clinic and surgery center located in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Its principal clientele includes collegiate and professional athletes, as well as “weekend warriors” who go a little too hard in their recreational leagues, she said.
Splitting time on a per-diem basis between the Vincera Institute and Hahnemann was made easier by the fact that a handful of the Hahnemann staffers with whom she trained also took positions there. As she transitioned to Vincera full-time, the small, tight-knit group felt “almost like going to work with a bunch of friends,” Pianti said, with colleagues taking up for one another to account for their lack of a second shift. It gets busy around the holidays, but with a staff of parents, “we all understand the plight of having to get everyone to dance class on time,” she said.
“It allows us to take care of our patients really well and maintain a good work-life balance,” Pianti said.
When she’s not working, Pianti likes to read, cook and garden; running also offers some necessary alone time. A busy mom to Sophie, five, and Simon, three-and-a-half, having the clarity of some quiet time is just as important to her ability to do the job as it is to her own wellness.
“It’s really important to carve out a little bit of time to go for a jog, listen to some music or a podcast, or just my own thoughts,” Pianti said. “My favorite activities are very solitary.”
As meaningful as on-the-job training and being a supportive coworker are to her career success, Pianti also stressed the importance of advanced education. With an interest in system issues like women’s health, environmental health, and workplace safety, she would like someday to pursue a master’s degree in public health. The ability to shift specialties is a hallmark of the nursing trade, often cited as a value of keeping people interested in their careers, but for Pianti, advanced schooling is about her passion for learning.
“[In nursing], you can find yourself in one area while still jumping to another,” she said. “You’re always building on your education, and it’s never boring because there’s always something new to find out.”
Pianti advised young nurses to pursue advanced degrees wherever possible and recommended seeking positions with employers who will offer tuition reimbursement as well.
“Keep educating yourself,” she said. “It’s a very interesting field, and there’s always new things to learn. Keep an open mind, get your education and take care of yourself.”